In a surprise move, S.C. Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, said Tuesday that he is stepping down immediately as majority leader after 11 years.
The senator told reporters that he needed to concentrate on a primary challenge for the seat he’s held for 36 years and wanted to share some of leadership responsibilities in the Senate.
Peeler said his decision had nothing to do with recent disagreements with Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, a Florence Republican, who also chairs the budget-writing committee. He has criticized the amount of power that Leatherman holds and they have clashed over a roads funding bill.
Peeler, one of the longest tenured state senators, said that he wants to become the Senate’s “quality control manager,” citing recent dysfunction inside the chamber and in working with the S.C. House.
The 67-year-old senator known for speaking his mind said he would like to serve as an adviser to his successor, who will be elected Wednesday.
“I wish I had a Harvey Peeler by my side for the past 11 years,” Peeler said.
Peeler told Republican senators about his decision shortly before meeting with reporters at noon. He did not endorse a successor.
Asked who might run for majority leader, Peeler said he did not know.
“Let The Hunger Games begin,” he joked.
Kenny Price of Boiling Springs is Peeler’s first primary challenger since at least 1996, according to S.C. elections records.
Efforts to reach Price were unsuccessful Tuesday. A mobile number that Price listed on his candidate registration form has an outgoing voicemail message from a woman with a different last name. Price’s home number has a message saying no voicemail box is not set up.